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them make disciples of all nations, promising his spiritual presence even to the consummation of the age. And no longer can there be the joy of tender intercourse, and the daily benediction of the Master in the flesh. But the knowledge that the Lord has parted from his friends in the very act of blessing and that in real communion he is ever near them may inspire a joy that the earthly comradeship had never known.
Not only to the eleven therefore were these last appearances and final words of Jesus of special moment. But they are of great significance for us. They assure us, who live after the centuries, that we are not less favored than the first disciples of the Lord. That noblest faith that comes without seeing may be ours. That best service that is rendered not to the Lord but to the Lord's people, is our daily opportunity. The Great Commission is still our marching orders. And the joy in believing that the hands of divine blessing are spread over us is the deepest joy the human heart can know.
It is in the interview with Thomas that the Master pronounces his blessing upon those who have not seen and yet have believed. Poor Thomas wanted to believe, but it was so impossible. He had long felt that the Master's noble work must have a fatal ending, and with fine loyalty he had followed him to the end. And there could be no doubt that it was the end. When the Sanhedrin had their prisoner in their clutch there was no escape. And when the Roman condemned a prisoner to the cross, the fearful sentence was carried out to the death. Thomas had been too bitterly convinced of the failure of the great Messianic enterprise for him to cherish any fond hope of its success.
They told him they had seen the Lord. Thomas said, “I must see for myself and I must prove. I could never credit that it was he, till I had put my finger into the print of the nails and thrust my hand into the wound mark in his side."
Thomas said what many say, “seeing is believing." He was right. And yet it is easy for the eyes to be deceived. What a history of delusion might be written concerning matters in which men thought they had seen aright. The inner vision is often truer than the outer vision.
Jesus does not condemn the desire for proof. Indeed he expressly offers Thomas the proof that he desires. But he utters the wonderful truth “Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.” It is happy to be able to believe without seeing. Paul died in the glorious confidence that this whole world would come into obedience to the will of God, and it lighted his dungeon with glory. Latimer saw the flames of the faggot that consumed him illuminating all England with truth. Washington believed in the people and saw a real democracy, while the world sneered. Modern business is carried on through confidence rather than through demonstration, and the best business men are trusted for themselves. And the happiness of the true home rests in a faith that is utterly regardless of proof.
It is not wrong to seek proof, but it is blessed not to need it. We believe in Jesus, not because anything has been demonstrated concerning him, but because he wins our love and confidence. We believe in the Father, whom no man hath seen, because Jesus reveals him. We believe in immortality, though the Risen Lord has never appeared to us. We are sure that he lives and because he lives we shall live also. If others say they cannot believe we do not find fault with them. We try to show them reasons for the great Christian truths. But it is our happiness that we do not need the reasons. Jesus himself is sufficient for us.
We are sure that he is the Way and the Truth and the Life. “Happy are they that have not seen and yet have believed.”
The second of the appearances of Jesus after the Easter day is recorded by John in the beautiful narrative of the breakfast by the lake. It is intended especially eter. He has fallen from his leadership by his three-fold denial of his Master. He is to be given an opportunity for a three-fold confession of love.
The self-confidence that characterized the disciple on the evening of the Supper is absent since he has learned humility by his fall. But his loyal profession is no less certain: “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee.” And Peter spoke the simple truth. His love for the Master was his dominant passion.
But Jesus is not to be the visible object of devotion. How shall the loyal love of his disciplės be manifest when he is withdrawn from them? “Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep.” It is the personal application of the great word that he had spoken in his picture of the judgment: “Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my children, even these least, ye did it unto me.”
There is a whole religion of humanity in the simple beautiful utterance. Jesus, the divine Lord, is ever among us in the person of the needy. Service to God is not in ritual acts, but in kindly deeds. Love to the Lord is not to be expressed in solemn words of adoration but in beautiful ministries to common folk.
The Christian imagination has been wonderfully kindled by this word of Jesus. Fancy has loved to picture fresh appearances of the Lord in the forms of those who needed Christian help. There is the legend of St. Christopher, the pious giant who carried Christian pilgrims over a bridgeless stream, and one day he carried over a little child, who proved to be the Christ. There is the Russian story of the cobbler, who longed for a vision of the Saviour, but who could only help some barefoot
poor, whose feet passed by his basement window. And at last he shod bare feet that proved to be the pierced feet of Jesus. The North folk have a story of the wandering child, who came to the woodman's hut on Christmas eve. The children gave up their supper and bed to the little stranger, and in the morning they found they had entertained the Christ. And most beautifully our American poet has told us of the returning pilgrim who shared his last crust with the leper and brought him water in his wooden bowl from the brook. And the bowl became the Holy Grail, and the transfigured leper was the Christ: “The Holy Supper is kept, indeed,
In whatso we share with another's need;
Himself, his hungering neighbor, and me.' The legends are all true. The Christ is here. We may minister to his hunger and thirst, we may clothe and warm and shelter him, we may comfort and encourage him.
“Lord, thou knowest that we love thee, for we see thee in all who need our care.
We are feeding thy lambs, we are tending thy sheep.”
The last appearance of Jesus in the narrative of Matthew is upon a mount in Galilee, where he declares to the disciples the fulness of authority that has been given him, commissions them to make disciples of all nations, and declares that his Unseen Presence shall accompany them to the end.
All the after-history of the church is evidence of the deep impression that last commission of the Lord made upon his followers. The church becomes an évangelizing force. There is good news for the world. Jesus is not dead, but living; and hope lives with him. He is at the right hand of God. The loving presence that cheered and strengthened men, and that made a mission of salvation seem glorious, continues though unseen, and the mission of salvation has attained a world significance.
Soon a Peter is speaking with a power unknown and thousands are believing. New names appearBarnabas, Stephen, Philip, Paul, and the message of salvation is cròssing boundaries of race and prejudice, and the world is listening. Still the Great Commission and the Unseen Presence call the preachers of the evangel. An Ulphilas goes among the rude Germanic peoples, an Augustine preaches to the fairhaired Saxons, a Patrick crosses the narrow seas to Ireland. All Europe knows of Jesus, the Saviour of
But there are other continents. Xavier and his Jesuits carry the crucifix into the far recesses of the Indian forests and among all the Asiatic peoples. The Moravian, crying, “I have one passion, and it is He, He alone,” becomes a missionary. Carey, in a land that had forgotten to read the closing words of Matthew's gospel, sees the Risen Lord pointing to the heathen peoples and reiterating his command, “Go ye,” and the missionary century begins. Names never to be forgotten in the catalog of the Lord's disciples are many now Duff, Morison, Judson, Livingstone, Patteson. They “endured as seeing him that is invisible."
What is the authority that was given to Jesus that could command such devotion for two millenniums? How is it that one in the long past can speak from that unknown Galilean hill and ten thousand of the noblest spirits of our modern life obey him? Maybe